The Problems With International Security Training Projects

Updated: Jul 26

The Problems With International Security Training Projects

I wrote this article in 2014 and it was first published in the British Bodyguard Association Journal. Over the last 20 plus years I have organized training courses and events internationally and to be honest teaching the classes is the easiest part. The administration and logistics is the pain in the ass... Enjoy!

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Orlando - Risks Inc. -

The Problems With International Security Training Projects

I am sat at JFK Airport in New York writing this article, I am waiting to catch a flight to the Middle East where I will teach a seminar for members of a National police force. I will stay in a nice hotel, be driven around and be decently paid, this is a far cry from 25 years ago when I was a 17 year old recruit turning up for basic British Army Infantry training at Depot Litchfield. Over the years I have provided security and training services to a wide variety of private and government client in Western and Eastern Europe, US, Latin America and Africa. And every job and location tends to have their own individual problems!

The first thing I take into consideration when approached for a contract is who the clients are and if they are times wasters, which over 90% are. Also, what it is they want exactly and can they afford it I regularly get emails from people wanting a vast array of course with money not being a problem, these tend to be the dreamers and the wannabes. When I believe someone is a serious client then we need to confirm they are who they say they are.

Several years ago I was approached by a police training institute from Mexico, where my company and I have worked numerous times. We were at the stage of waiting for the plane tickets to arrive, luckily for us they did not. A week or so later we saw the media reports that the institute had been raided and its official’s and others in the state associated with the local police had been arrested by federal police due to connections to the Drug Cartels. These days you have to be very careful, especially when operating in countries where government corruption is high!

When I write proposals I expect that the training programs will change if we get the contract due to facilities, equipment and team or local politics. But if the flights and retainer arrives we deal with the expected issues when we get to the location and the training starts.

Now what a lot of people don’t understand is that running commercial training projects and operating outside of a regular military or government structure is very different. For a start always remember, if things go bad for whatever reason, you have no support. Your local embassies with do the minimum they are required to do if it gets to the stage of where you need their assistance.

Now one of the big issues that a lot of inexperienced trainers have is that they expect living conditions in a developing country to be the same as they are in U.S. or Western Europe. On one job in Mexico when we were staying in a police barracks my associate had a scorpion nest in his room and I had a rat in mine, we had be careful when leaving our rooms to make sure the free roving Rockweilers had been chained up.

Things that people take for granted like power, internet and gyms maybe limited or no-existent. While I was working in West Africa mains electricity could be on for maybe a couple of hours a day, so laptops were always plugged in, phones charged at every opportunity. In most places internet is available to some extent, so you need to see how the locals get it and make sure you’re not getting scammed on rates. Food can be another issue for some trainers, don’t expect steak, potatoes and doughnuts. If trainers and operators are fussy eaters or germaphobic it raises a red flag for me. To be able to operate in an environment you need to be comfortable in that environment!

Now a lot of training programs change because the facilities and equipment that was requested or expected are not available, so you have to work with what you have. In locations where there are issues with corruption you can expect problems with equipment being stolen or sold; on one job I ended up cutting a deal with a team leader of a tactical team on ammunition, as the allocation kept getting smaller without anything being shot. I understood their situation and my main concern was improving operational effectiveness of the team and for this I needed the co-operation of the team leader and the team members.

On the other end of the scale we once had a group attend a custom course we organized for them in Serbia. This group included two American instructors who had law enforcement backgrounds… This group stayed in the most expensive hotel in Belgrade and were the only people we had ever complain about the facilities we use in Serbia. In America the ranges are better, in America we bought new Glocks for the students, in America… These supposed experienced instructors were ignorant prima donnas that did not know the rest of the world is not like America!! In America tactical equipment, guns and ammunition are freely available and quite cheap, not so in most other countries.

I am lucky that over the years I have had some good guides and I remember one from when I was in South Africa in 94 made it clear to me you must respect and understand others cultures. He was white and of a British Army background and it was clear to me that his native employees respected him greatly. He told me he made it clear to his guys that some aspects of their culture he dislike and their food disgusted him as he knew some aspects of his culture etc. disgusted them. But, he also made it clear he respected their culture and expected the same in return. It worked!

I have had to deal with various problems over the years that have voodoo and magic. Now for some this may seem a joke but in a lot of places voodoo and magic are part of the culture. One story I tell happened while I was working in Nigeria. A laptop computer went missing form a room at the training location and the trainees were the suspects. I was training about 60 vigilantes from 5 districts, many of whom could not read or write but this did not mean they were stupid! The next morning after the admin staff made a stink about the